Martha Smith was shopping for her husband and two daughters in 1940 when a sparkling pearl bracelet in the jeweler’s window caught her eye. In the midst of the Great Depression, her family was not suffering as was the rest of the county. Her husband, Hy, a self-educated Civil Engineer selling large, used construction equipment, managed to find steady customers. The bracelet glinted in the display and seemed to smile at her: how could she possibly pass it up? She couldn’t.
Christmas Eve had become the traditional time for opening gifts in our family, ever since Martha, my grandmother, had complained of needing to run from the kitchen to the front room to see what was being opened, then back to the kitchen to prepare breakfast – always an elaborate affair that bespoke her English heritage. So, exchanging presents was shifted to Christmas Eve to allow a more leisurely celebration. My grandfather, in the Santa Claus role of handing out the wrapped presents beneath the tree, was somewhat flummoxed when he picked up the small package with a card reading “To Marty – Love, Hy.” He handed it to my grandmother with a confused expression; clearly he was rummaging through his mind. She opened the gift, a lovely pearl bracelet, and threw her arms around Grandpa, exclaiming, “Hy! It is gorgeous! I absolutely love it!!” She kissed him and immediately began fastening it to her wrist. Ancestry Researchers.
My grandfather stood there, confused, bewildered, as she extended her arm for him to admire the bracelet. He stammered, “But Marty, I didn’t . . . I don’t know. . . .” He looked to my aunt and my mother, young teenagers, for some assistance in solving the mystery. They just shrugged their shoulders. He tried again, “Marty, I am not sure where this gift came from, but my present for you is still under the tree,” and he nodded at the wrapped toaster he had hoped would please her.
She smiled at him and said, “I know you didn’t get me this, but you would have if you had known how much I wanted it. So I just helped out with your shopping.”
Every year, this story is told around our Christmas tree. Often, it is imitated as someone will have “pulled the Martha trick” to give themselves something truly desired. And so my grandparents are with us at every Christmas. That, of course, is a major attraction of family history: knowing our ancestors as so much more than birth, marriage, and death dates and places. The stories of their lives breathe life back into them and keep them with us. That is why we see so many suggestions from genealogists around the holidays to take the opportunity at family gatherings to talk with older relatives and pay attention to their memories, to record them for future generations in some way.
The loss of family history with the passing of each generation is inevitable. But we can save some of it by writing down the stories and attaching them to our compiled genealogies, preferably in an electronic format – one of my personal preferences is to attach these to an online tree. These stories can also be included in self-published books, such as the Legacy Book offered by RecordClick. If you would like some assistance with the kinds of questions to ask your older relatives as you gather together this season, or how best to preserve your own memories of your ancestors, contact the professional genealogists at RecordClick. The family history Ancestry Researchers at RecordClick can help you find a way to give a remarkable Christmas gift to generations of your family yet unborn.
Photo credit Nancy Siddons-Daniels